The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “How do you come up with a new startup idea?” is written by Eric Wise, founder and chief academic officer at The Software Guild.
There is a lot of mystique in entrepreneurship. Many founders are trying to come up with grand ideas, but the reality is that successfully creating and executing a business takes a lot of effort. There will be sleepless nights and times when you just don’t feel like getting out of bed and going to work. That’s why it’s critical to work on ideas and products that you have a genuine interest in. My process for founding The Software Guild was simple, and is applicable to all startup founders: Find a problem that annoys you, and then create a solution to fix it.
Identify the problem
As a technical hiring manager, I was annoyed by the lack of high-quality candidates available for the positions I was trying to fill. Many of them lacked training on modern software development techniques, and it was clear they had not built a solid, early-career foundation or had sufficient mentorship. And since I knew from talking to industry peers that my company wasn’t the only one challenged with attracting skilled applicants, I decided to try to fix the problem.
Identify a solution (and surround yourself with the right team)
My peers were essential in helping me realize the widespread industry issue, but I knew not to rely too heavily on peer validation. As I assessed the problem, and whether it warranted a legit business solution, I asked myself some critical questions: Was this problem something niche to me, or was it widespread? Were there other solutions out there that I simply wasn’t aware of? In my excitement to provide a solution, was I missing something critical? How can the idea be monetized?
The only way I answered these questions was through research and conversations with industry contacts. Of course, you’ll sometimes have a few peers tell you you’re crazy or that your ideas will never work, but part of the process is knowing when to ignore them. I quickly learned to distinguish between peers who had insightful, fact-based observations and others who simply advised out of concern. Most people are too conservative in nature to become entrepreneurs, so I tend to discard remarks that stem from fear.
The right peers can help you better understand yourself. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and when you’re risking it all on a startup, it’s vital that you maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. This requires both being very honest with yourself and surrounding yourself with people who are strong where you are weak. So if you’re a technical person, for example, but have never run the operations of a business before, find someone who has those skills and delegate.
Build your brand, and realize it doesn’t have to equal startup stardom
One bit of advice I give to budding entrepreneurs is to be boring. In my interactions with the startup/tech community, I have found many successful startup ventures that fly somewhat under the radar because the problem they are solving is mundane. They aren’t the next Facebook (FB), but they’re executing solutions better than everyone else.
A successful business owner I know, for example, develops software that helps to run waste management centers more efficiently. He is passionate about the environment and properly handling waste, so the problem is something he cares deeply about. Sometimes aspiring entrepreneurs get stuck trying to be too clever or unique, when all it takes to be successful is to identify a known problem and execute the solution better than everyone else.